An age-gap romance with a multi-cultural twist, The Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh is a book that should come with some trigger warnings.
For almost a decade, successful 37-year-old Samira Broderick has used her bustling LA practice as an excuse to avoid a trip home to Australia. She still resents her meddling Indian mother for arranging her marriage to a man who didn’t stick around when the going got tough, but now with a new job Down Under, she’s finally ready to reconnect with her. And while she’s there, a hot international fling might be just what she needs to get out of her recent funk.
Aussie stuntman, Rory Radcliffe, has been hiding his stutter for years by avoiding speaking roles. When a job he can’t refuse comes up as a reality show host, he knows he’ll need some help for the audition: a dialect coach. But he finds himself at a loss for words when he discovers it’s the same sexy woman with whom he just had a mind-blowing one-night stand…
Samira can think of many reasons why Rory is completely wrong for her: he’s ten years her junior, for one, and he’s not Indian–something Samira’s mother would never approve of. Even if things were to get serious, there’s no reason to tell her mother…is there?
Okay, so I have some complicated feelings on the primary plot of this book. Let me warn you, there be spoilers ahead.
I’m about to spoil a MAJOR plot point of the book.
LAST WARNING. Spoilers below. REALLY.
So here’s the thing. This book features a main character in her late 30s, who previously struggled to get pregnant in her first marriage. She has come to terms with her fertility issues; in fact, it’s something she commiserates about with her cousin, who is going through IVF with her husband.
And then she has a fling with the titular “boy toy” … and gets pregnant. After one broken condom.
Now, let me add the disclaimer, that I am already not a huge fan of the “accidental pregnancy” trope, and I hate when it’s not disclosed in the synopsis ahead of time. (Some rare exceptions exist, but they are rare.) But I found the use of it in this particular case exceptionally troubling, and here’s why: it adds to the myth of the “just stop trying so hard & it’ll happen” mentality when it comes to infertility.
In case you’re new here, I’ve been pretty open about my own struggles with infertility. My husband and I went through fertility treatments for two years, before I finally became pregnant with my twins via IVF.
Now, yes. It’s true that there are cases where women going through fertility treatments do miraculously get pregnant when they’re “on a break” from treatments, or after giving up treatments. But these stories, while widely circulated, are in fact very rare cases. It’s not common at all, and perpetuating these stories only makes couples’ fertility struggles all the more difficult. That’s partly because of the hopes that can be pinned on becoming one of those stories, but even more so because well-meaning friends, relatives and casual acquaintances like to bring these stories up. They think they’re being helpful, by offering “advice,” or a hopeful anecdote. But these stories are, more often than not, hurtful and painful reminders of a couple’s struggles.
Now, in her author’s note, the author briefly mentions that she has experience with infertility herself. I don’t know her exact circumstances and her exact experience, and everyone copes with their infertility journey differently.
But I still firmly believe that perpetuating stories of these “miracle pregnancies” after infertility are hurtful and damaging. And inserting a surprise pregnancy into a book where the heroine has already dealt with infertility, without any warning, is almost cruel. If I’d been reading this book while still going through fertility treatments, I might have had a full-blown meltdown from it.
Anyway, I guess my complaint is two-fold: first, that this plot line exists at all — and second, that there is no content warning given ahead of time. Given that 1 in 8 couples will struggle with infertility, I think a content warning is more than fair.
As far as the book itself, the characters were certainly captivating. But once I realized where the plot was going, I lost interest in the book. I still finished reading it — at first, I kept going, because I hope my instincts were wrong. But nope, sure enough. Surprise pregnancy. I was so excited by the set-up of this book, but the surprise pregnancy plot line, coupled with the heroine’s past infertility, left me feeling disappointed and frustrated.
Based on early reviews, other readers certainly found plenty to enjoy. But for me, these things turned me off too much to really appreciate the better aspects of the story.
The Boy Toy is out tomorrow.